Editor's Note - It's that time of year again. This year's holiday season will like bring record online shopping and with it a level of risk. In addition to all that we write and report about making sure your computers and networks are secure, there now are dubious online "retailers" who continue to find new ways to scam consumers. Here's a report from the Better Business Bureau.
This holiday shopping season, be on the lookout for a new scam technique. As shoppers become wary of paying by wire transfer and pre-paid debit card, scammers are trying something new. They are requesting victims purchase and pay with gift cards.
How the Scam Works:
You are shopping online and discover a website that sells flat screen TVs, computers, cameras and other big ticket items for deeply discounted prices. You do some research, and find a few reviews from satisfied customers. The price is so great, you decide to give it a try.
During checkout, the site instructs you to purchase an Amazon gift card and use the gift card information as payment. The site may claim that this unorthodox form of payment helps you save paying sales tax.
No matter what the website says, don't do it! The site -- and the good reviews -- are all fake. Paying by gift card is just like wiring money, using a pre-paid debit card, or paying cash; it's untraceable. You will be out the money spent on the gift card, and the item you purchased will never arrive.
Protect Yourself from an Online Shopping Scam
- If the price seems to good to be true, there's probably something wrong. Be wary if the item is selling for significantly lower than what you've seen elsewhere.
- Beware of high pressure sales. Scammers want to get your money before you have time to think or get a second opinion on the deal.
- Watch out for sellers who won't take credit cards. Beware of sellers that requires you to wire money, use a prepaid debit card, or pay by gift card.
- Check for legitimate contact information. Make sure the seller has a real phone number and address on the website, so you can contact them in case of problems. When in doubt, type the phone number into a search engine and see if it matches the seller, or if others have expressed concerns or filed complaints.
- Make sure websites are secure and authenticated. Before you purchase an item online, look for "https" before the web address and a small lock symbol that ensure your credit card and/or banking information is secure.
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